Category Archives: Winter CSA

The Beef Stew Trials

Beef Stew

I want to like beef stew, I really do. I try different recipes, all different variations, and more often than not, I’m underwhelmed. With another cold winter ahead, it seems like I should figure out how to make a beef stew I enjoy.

Did I mention that we bought a winter CSA share? Because it was all storage vegetables, it was a one-time pickup. In early December, we picked up bags and bags of onions, shallots, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, beets, carrots, parsnips, celery root, and (new to me) black radishes.

Filthy Vegetables

I thought hard about what I do and don’t like about stew. For one thing, the vegetables in most stews are just carrots and potatoes, and I realize I don’t like potatoes that have stewed for a long time. I also don’t usually like stews that are just meaty soups with a thin soupy broth.

I came up with a stew with lots of root vegetables (no potatoes) and a lovely thick gravy. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. The meat was perfectly tender, and the meat-to-vegetable ratio was exactly the way I like it. Howard liked it too.

Don't We Clean Up Well?

Don’t We Clean Up Well?

I served the stew over the celery root puree I made for French Fridays. The texture of the creamy puree complemented the chunky stew in every bite. I might be sold on stew this time. There’s plenty of winter ahead and lots of root vegetables in the fridge, so I’ll definitely be trying this again.

Beef Stew
Adapted from The Commonsense Kitchen
Serves 8

1¾ lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Pinch of cloves
1 cup fruity red wine
3 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Leaves of 2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
5 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch slices
2 turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 black radishes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (or 2 more turnips or parsnips)
1 small celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
¾ cup cold wter
1/3 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 300F.

Dry the meat with paper towels. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. In a large bowl, toss the meat with 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, and the cloves. Heat 1½ tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet. In two batches, brown the beef on all sides. Add each batch to a large Dutch oven as it finishes browning. Add more oil, if needed.

Add the wine, stock, bay leaf, and thyme to the Dutch oven with the browned beef. Bring it to a simmer (not a boil). Taste for seasoning. Cover the Dutch oven and place in to the oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 250F and cook for another hour.

About 15 minutes before the hour is up, in a skillet over medium heat, add another 1½ tablespoons olive oil. Gently cook the onions, garlic, celery, and carrots sprinkled with salt, stirring frequently, until they start to soften, but not brown (about 5 minutes). Add the remaining vegetables and another sprinkle of salt, and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Place the cold water and flour in a jar. Shake well until it is well-combined.

Add the slurry along with the vegetables to the Dutch oven. Stir everything together, and replace the pot in the oven. Cook for another 40 minutes. The gravy will thicken as the vegetables cook through. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed.

Serve over celery root puree or another accompaniment of your choice.


Spring Has Arrived

I finally feel like the transition to spring is here. Sure, we’re still having some chilly evenings, but it’s finally feeling more like it’s warmer than it’s colder. My twice-weekly exercise class made its move from inside the high school field house to an outdoor field last week. The first morning it was 55 degrees, though the second morning, it was 20 degrees colder. It might be time to turn the heat off for the season soon.

Now that spring is in the air, the garden is starting to come alive. I still have some snowdrops lingering. The crocus is over, but the first early tulips and my first two daffodils opened this weekend. Chionodoxa has naturalized on the edges of the lawn which makes me smile.

Yesterday, I cleared out the herb bed and found the chervil volunteers, chives, and tarragon poking up green shoots. The lemon balm, oregano, mints, winter (perennial) savory, and sage are still dormant, but alive. The thyme didn’t make it, so I will get some replacement when I purchase the annual rosemary and lemon verbena to round out the mix.

As for food plants, the gooseberries, currants, and blueberries are starting to leaf out. The raspberries and blackberries haven’t gotten started yet, but I’m sure they aren’t far behind. I forgot to check whether the rhubarb is starting to poke up and unfurl but it should be starting. We planted a bed of peas a few weeks back (under the Remay cloth) but no sign of germination yet.

We’re trying a new approach with the lettuce and radishes this year. Check out my latest planter. It’s a 10-foot section of gutter that I spray-painted and Howard hung on the back of the garage. I planted microgreens, arugula, and mesclun mix along with a mix of radishes and some watermelon radishes. These are all shallow growers, so the gutter shouldn’t hinder them. The added benefit is that the height will keep my tender seedlings out of reach of the bunnies living in that corner of the garden. (Next project is to paint that plywood another bright color.)

A seasonal change is a change in more than weather but in what we eat. I’m just finishing up the last of our Winter CSA vegetables, storage vegetables obviously. There are still a couple of butternut squash left and a couple of pounds of beets.

I used up the last of the beets in a simple but delicious soup. Roasted beets combined with sautéed red onion in chicken stock with a smidge of cream. The whole mixture gets processed in the blender for a smooth, magenta puree. The color is wild. The taste is sweet and earthy and more complex than its short list of ingredients. I’m certainly happy to be saying goodbye to winter, but this soup was an excellent sendoff!

Cream of Beet Soup
Adapted from Joyce Goldstein’s Back to Square One

2 lbs beets
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium red onion, sliced
4 cups chicken stock
¾ cup light cream (or half-and-half)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the beets well. Place the unpeeled beets in a roasting pan, add about ½ inch of water to the pan. Cover with foil and bake for one hour or until the beets are tender. When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip the skin off.

Cut 1/3 of the beets into julienne and set aside. Dice the remaining beets.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Lower the heat and add the onion. Cook until tender and translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the stock and diced beets. Bring to a boil, and simmer for about 10 more minutes.

Puree the soup in the blender until smooth. Return puree to the saucepan. Add the cream and stir to mix in completely. Season to taste.

To serve, ladle warmed soup into bowls and garnish with the julienned beets.

You could dollop with sour cream, but it’s delicious plain.